May 21, 2001 11:46 PM   Subscribe

"Munchausen" isn't just a fabulous movie – it's a syndrome where you pretend to be (or believe you are) sick in order to get attention. There is also a well-known syndrome called Munchausen By Proxy where a parent makes a child sick. And now (here it comes) there's Munchausen By Internet – people pretending to have illnesses on the net to get attention. It's a subject I would have scoffed at a few days ago, but now....
posted by fraying (5 comments total)
In the article about MBI, there are a few great suggestions of signs to watch out for:
  1. the posts consistently duplicate material in other posts, in books, or on health-related websites
  2. the characteristics of the supposed illness emerge as caricatures
  3. near-fatal bouts of illness alternate with miraculous recoveries
  4. claims are fantastic, contradicted by subsequent posts, or flatly disproved
  5. there are continual dramatic events in the person's life, especially when other group members have become the focus of attention
  6. there is feigned blitheness about crises (e.g., going into septic shock) that will predictably attract immediate attention
  7. others apparently posting on behalf of the individual (e.g., family members, friends) have identical patterns of writing
There's also a great academic document in pdf format called "Munchausen by Internet: Detecting factitious illness and crisis on the internet". It's well worth the download if you participate in support communities.

My intention in posting this is not to make anyone more suspicious of online intimacy – I am still quite willing to believe what I read online is true almost all the time. But it never hurts to raise a little awareness and learn the warning signs, just in case.
posted by fraying at 11:47 PM on May 21, 2001

posted by Redgie at 1:02 AM on May 22, 2001

Someone's posted about this already on one of the other threads (too many posts to track it down), but I feel really bad for the people who really are sick and want to share their stories online -- it's going to be that much harder to get people to believe them (well, apart from Halcyon).
posted by lia at 2:17 AM on May 22, 2001

>>I feel really bad for the people who really are sick and want to share their stories online -- it's going to be that much harder to get people to believe them<<

I've watched this whole kaycee situation develop over the past few days with wildly mixed emotions about it, particularly because I'm one of those people (on both counts - I also fell for the hoax).

One of the things that struck me reading that list of things to look out for is that in the time I've been online and a member of an online support group (first of all the alt.support.arthritis newsgroup, when that was initially wrongly diagnosed and later the group specific to my condition) I've never seen anyone display those signs... not that people don't have crises - they do, but they just don't up and recover from them, or sail blithely through them... and I wonder if perhaps the reason is that the condition I have is rare - too rare to be something "trendy" to suffer from - or that it's too difficult to find information on and thus too much work to fake easily and I'm well aware how horribly cynical that sounds.

I have a load of other thoughts on the situation, but I find myself in the position of feeling unsure whether to post them or not for fear of being accused of attention seeking.

But anyway, my 2 cents on Munchausen by Internet - it's probably confined to (or at least more prevalent in) the more "well known" illnesses and support groups.
posted by pixeldiva at 7:42 AM on May 22, 2001

Pixeldiva - does someone asking (like myself) for your two cents make you less tentative in posting them? Because I really would like to know.
posted by Ezrael at 12:16 AM on June 1, 2001

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